8 days – Rhine, Strasbourg and Heidelberg
This is an 8-day cruise so there are 6 full days of inclusive tours along the route.
Day 4 – Strasbourg and Colmar
As we had to pass through the two locks on our way, we were later than planned but were still able to enjoy our 1.5-hour guided talk with time to spare before the next stage to Colmar in the afternoon.
What a beautiful city, now in the Alsace region between France and Germany so lots of history for our very knowledgeable guide to impart. The covered bridges, often-changing boundary lines for the city, are the starting point, then on around lots of narrow streets and oddly-shaped timbered houses. Apparently, each timber on the upper floors is numbered in case the building was destroyed and had to be rebuilt.
The Cathedral is stunning, and it is amazing the skills of craftsmen of that period, whether building monumental structures or houses for merchants of the day. Walking along the 16th century Tanners’ Lane gives a picture of how close the buildings were and how fast any fire, or plague, could spread.
As we had chosen the second option for the day – to catch the later coach directly to Colmar rather than back to the ship for lunch then on the Colmar a bit later – we needed to experience some of the local cuisine. We decided to try the famous Flambee – like a pizza but with a thin pastry base rather than bread dough – so sat outside the Brasserie L’Italia just around the corner from the Cathedral, a perfect spot for people watching of course. Then a little snooze on the coach for the 1.5-hour journey to Colmar.
Colmar is famous for its canals, often referred to as Little Venice, so a great place to explore on your own. Stroll alongside a canal, look out for lots of quirky shop-front decorations and colourful flower boxes everywhere. As always, there are plenty of street cafes and bars to sample, and you can always find your way back to the centre to meet up and board the coach back to the MS Jane Austen in plenty of time to change for dinner.
Day 5 – Rudesheim
Still cruising in the morning on our way to Rudesheim, another scorching hot day, the front sun- deck a perfect place to view the spectacular scenery accompanied by Eric’s commentary about history and legend. As with other days, the presentation in the lounge explains how the visit will work. Buffet lunch as normal on board, but with the added feature of making your own ice cream sundae in the lobby then coffee in the lounge.
After lunch, free to explore the town, we chose the optional trip to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Museum and riding on the ‘Noddy Train’. What a fascinating museum. Even if you are not interested in musical instruments, you really should visit this fantastic collection of old, lovingly restored mechanical instruments that generally started off as broken bits and pieces. Ranging from large-scale fairground cabinets to a tiny chirping-bird music box, even the Silver Travel Advisor bag enjoyed the visit!
Afterwards we took the cable car (€8 each) up to the impressive monument at the top overlooking vineyards, the city, and the beautiful River Rhine. Stunning views, then down to try the famous Rudesheimer Kaffee expertly mixed at your table. Sugar stirred with double measure of hot Asbach brandy, then hot coffee, and topped with big fat dollop of cream with chocolate sprinkles. As you can see, it is clearly a treat.
Another overnight mooring, so after dinner is the perfect opportunity to stroll through the narrow streets, especially the popular Drosselgasse lined with elaborately-decorated bars and restaurants. Complete the evening with a relaxing drink in the quiet of the sundeck, enjoy the clear, night sky and swirling reflections of lights on the river.
Day 6 – Cologne
The final full day takes you back to Cologne so a last chance to enjoy the scenery. Everyone must attend the morning briefing, of course, for tomorrow’s disembarkation instructions as well as a short presentation on Cologne, 2pm departure by coach and included guided tour.
It was exceptionally hot this day, so we decided to just stroll by ourselves, starting with the cool interior of the Cathedral. This is a major city, so not as picturesque as other towns we have visited, but if you want some insights into its history, the small-group tour is very interesting. Or take the ‘Chocolate Express’ train around the centre and stop at the Chocolate Museum (€8 each for adults).
The coach returns to the Jane Austen with time to get your glad-rags on for the special Captain’s Farewell Gala Dinner, a chance to say goodbye to everyone and enjoy an excellent meal in the restaurant. A set menu of pate, soup and seared scallops, then a choice of main meal of bass or lamb or vegetarian option, Baked Alaska for dessert plus coffee and petit fours. A very enjoyable end to the cruise.
Final Day of departure
Everything is planned like clockwork, with instructions for when and where to leave your cases, colour-coded depending on time of transfer, and an extra buffet lunch available for those who were leaving later – we were not picked up until mid-afternoon so could relax a little while waiting.
It is made clear for this cruise that there are no facilities for those with significant disabilities, so you need to be able to get on and off the ship via the gangplank safely (with a walking stick if necessary), and most of the towns visited would be very difficult to get around if you needed a wheelchair. Of course, you do not have to go on the trips ashore or the guided tours as facilities are still available on board. It was perfect for us as our first river cruise and the first time to the River Rhine, so an excellent holiday.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Riviera Travel – River Cruises